Monday, November 30, 2009

The Many C’s of Customer Service

Many years ago, I worked in one of the largest shopping malls in Dubai, the Deira City Center in charge of their newly formed Customer Service department. This was a unique job in that none of the malls in Dubai had a Customer Service department. Ours was the first to set one up and to offer a wide-array of services including simple things like gift wrapping, selling postcards and stamps and setting up customer service kiosks to answer any questions the mall customers might have. It was my job to hire and train the staff and work with the design team and architects to create the booths. Needless to say, it was challenging at the very least, and exciting at the same time. But thanks to this, Deira City Center suddenly became an ‘example mall’ which the other centers soon learnt to imitate.

From Dubai, I moved to Cyprus and it was a great shock to learn that the town of Limassol not only had no mall, but didn’t understand the term ‘customer service’. While I have a lot of happy memories of sandy beaches and blue, calm waters, I also recall a number of frustrating moments where I had to deal with appalling service and a galling lack of customer care.

When dealing with clients, you can’t laugh off poor service. And you don’t get second chances. Even if you have a sound business plan and a list of clients lining up at the door, you can’t afford to offer anything but the best when it comes to your services. Having read countless books on customer service and been in the field for a number of years, there are a few points I believe any provider offering a service should follow.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Do I Hire You?

I've visited a lot of blogs and there's something that I notice in quite a few of them: no contact details! The only way a person can get in touch with the blog author then is via a comment, which can be made open to the public.

This is not a problem when the blog author is not a writer, designer or someone who is selling his services. This becomes a BIG problem when the person is open to receiving clients, does not have a website with a contact form and conducts all the correct marketing procedures to get an audience to visit his site.

If you are looking to attract potential clients or even are open to the idea of getting new business, ensure there's a way you can be contacted. Put an email or phone number up on your blog where it's visible. And don't make it complicated. There's nothing that's going to send a potential client running off to your competition faster than if he has to play 'search for the contact details' on your blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cut to the straight and narrow

Want to get an audience to actually read your prose? Get off the meandering path and stick to the straight and narrow.

Strip it down
Along with being a writer you need to be an editor and this means, being brutal! Cut back on your word count dramatically by snipping off the excess word-fat and keeping it lean. This holds all the more true in the case of query letters where concise information is required, not a long drawn out account of how brilliant your article is. Check the ratio between the number of words you use and the amount of information you offer. A 50% ratio is good.

Get rid of relative pronouns: Avoid as much as possible using ‘that, which, who’ and their verbs.
E.g. The report that was submitted by Mr X is on my desk versus The report submitted by Mr. X is on my desk.

Avoid repetitions
It’s quite common while editing to find a word repeated, not necessarily in the same sentence but in an adjoining one. Getting someone else to give your work a once-over can help reduce this problem immensely as can taking a break and getting back to the piece to view it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Stop being passive:
Use the active voice as much as possible. Take action, tell your readers what they should (or should not be doing) and get straight to the point with doable advise.
E.g. I give versus You are given; Do this versus This should be done

Be animated: Start your sentence with an animate subject. Using animate subjects also allows you to select more colourful verbs.
E.g. We solved the problem versus The problem was solved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Twitter Headlines Which Work!

I sporadically use twitter- when I have the time, I love browsing through it, when I'm busy, it's relegated a back-seat. Twitter however can be a powerful tool, not just to make friends and online contacts, but also to keep abreast with what's happening in the market, sell you products and services and gain new clients.

Because of the limited number of words you can use each tweet, try and keep in mind the following:

Your headline should be interesting. Funny too is good. Most people will retweet your tweets without actually clicking on the link, if your headline captures interest.

If you promise something, always be sure to deliver.

Ensure readers understand the urgency of action- Buy Now, Last Day Offer, Click Now- are all great ways to get readers to click on the link.

Stick to one topic. Tweeting on your restroom activities and what your dog ate is really of no interest to people. A well written article which offers advice, is.

Avoid blatant selling. I have to say I sometimes indulge in it, but it's never got me any hard core fans, just those who want to gain more followers. Keep promoting your work subtly and you'll find it a better way to capture audience interest.

Happy tweeting!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Read A Lot, Write A Lot

No, that isn’t my line but one borrowed from Stephen King in his book, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft. Reading is essentially what makes a writer, write, and it always surprises me when people say- I love writing, but I don’t read much (actually, I haven’t heard anyone say that, but I have heard of it being told). How would you know of the mysteries of Egypt without reading about them ? (Please don’t say the Discovery Channel, though I do love it! ;) Or delve into murders aboard trains, planes and old English manors with an Alfred Hitchcock novel. I don’t read Stephen King’s books much, but I do know what he says about writing- and that comes because I enjoy reading.

Reading helps your writing to improve and here’s how:

It helps you understand your genre or niche: All writers should have a niche, even generalist writers. By reading about topics you are interested in and want to write about, you’ll learn how to create the required structure, sentence flow and particular terminology which may (or may not) apply.

It helps you build a better command of the language: Read in the language you will be writing and you’ll build up your vocabulary, learn to identify grammar and sentence syntaxes and improve your writing style.

It acts as an idea bank: Reading can stir up the imagination and allows you to come up with ideas you may not have previously thought of. Lacking blog ideas? Pick up a book or read through online blogging sites. Need to pitch an idea to your local magazine or newspaper? Browse through catalogues, brochures and online newsroom sites. You never know when or where an idea will strike, but reading certainly helps speed up the process.

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Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write on or sign up for her course, Article Writing And Selling 101 on

Monday, November 2, 2009

What Makes Keywords Important?

You've heard of the importance of SEO (search engine optimization)- and often, clients will ask for the use of certain keywords in their articles. What makes keywords so special and why use them?

Keywords can form a very important tool to your writing process. For one, they are accurate. Used appropriately, they will provide you with the correct words for the correct context. They will also ensure your article gets a higher ranking on search engines. And finally, clients looking for research will be directed to sites which use the key words they've typed in.

Selecting keywords is simple and sites like Google are user friendly. All it requires is that you put in a list of options you're targeting and the site will spew out a number of relevant keywords for you to select from.

When selecting keywords from the given options, bear in mind that popular keywords are not always the best choice. You'll be fighting with hundreds of other articles which have opted for these 'popular' keywords. It may make more sense to base your selection on researched demand; i.e. a more narrow niche rather than a more popular choice.

So the next time you're writing an article, whether it's for a client or your own site, take some time to research the keywords you can use in it. And watch your page rankings rise!

Want to use this article? You can if you include this blurb:

Freelance writer Usha Krishnan Sliva has years of article and copywriting experience. To get more free tips and writing ideas, subscribe to her ezine-Getting It Write on or sign up for her course, Article Writing And Selling 101 on